By: Oliver McManus
Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing bring boxing back to the much-forgotten city of Nottingham this Friday, the first Sky show there since the heydays of Carl Froch. Boxing never truly went away, though, with shows being promoted regularly on a small-hall level and talents such as Ekow Essuman and Nina Bradley forcing their way into the spotlight.
Jordan Gill gets the honour of headlining at the Nottingham Arena with a defence of his WBA International title. The featherweight, 23-0, is one of the last fighters sticking by the old adage “20 for learning, 20 for earning”, with a patient development stretching back to his debut in 2012. Turning professional on his 18th birthday, the featherweight was a popular product on Sheffield and Peterborough shows, continually putting in mature performances to pick off rounds, and contests, with ease.
Not many had him down as someone with a big punch but, actually, as he’s got into the habit of making championship weight he’s begun to showcase his menace. Holding his punches well, the featherweight is on an impressive run of three straight knockouts (seven, in all) and has done so on each occasion through a simply ferocious body of punches. It’s that spite and aggression that, perhaps, you wouldn’t have seen at the beginning of his career.
His opponent, Enrique Tinoco, has been inactive since a six round victory in March, last year. His career has been blotted with various red and blue dots on Boxrec – five losses and four draws – without any real wins of note. In 2017 the Mexican was in the away corner for Devin Haney’s 17th contest and lost all eight rounds, comfortably so. Knocked out in 2014 by Miguel Roman, Tinoco kissed the canvas thrice in third round.
Easy on the eye and a joy to watch, it’s great to see Gill getting the backing from Matchroom and topping these NXT GEN cards. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes too big for these type of shows, however.
Local fighter Leigh Wood, from Gedling, will feature in the co-main event as he looks to defend his Commonwealth Featherweight title against Ryan Doyle. Wood won the belt, vacated by Gill, on March 2nd with a second round knockout against, over-matched, Abraham Osei Bonsu. He’s been knocking on the doors of a title for the last twelve, eighteen months having been made mandatory to the British at one point.
Similarly to Gill, Wood hasn’t rushed anything in his career and is now reaping the benefits. A sole loss to Gavin McDonnell is certainly no disgrace and the 31 year old has subsequently notched up wins against Josh Wale and Lee Glover to prove he’s beyond a domestic level. Naturally more of a heavy hitter than, his divisional counterpart, Gill has dropped his opponents on fourteen occasions and always seems to keep an extra something for these big fights.
Doyle, meanwhile, is coming off a loss to Gill – it all seems to tie together nicely – having formerly held this very Commonwealth title. Brought in as an away opponent for Reece Bellotti in June 2018, the Lancashire fighter was having none of it and duly set about dispatching Bellotti within five rounds and ending any hype or hope surrounding his opponent. The former champion, though, has done just as much of the groundwork as his adversary and has always leapt at opportunities – against Isaac Lowe, James Tennyson, Bellotti, Gill. We know, to an extent, what we’re getting from the 27 year old and that is, very simply, a proper boxer who leaves everything in the ring.
History shows, as well, he’s got a knack for revenge. Having suffered a last gasp knockout reversal to Ian Bailey, they met again and Doyle boxed his ears off for 10 rounds. Don’t bet against him doing the exact same and regaining his Commonwealth title. Now this is a pick’em.
On the undercard there are two fights that stand out, perhaps for obvious reasons, in Terri Harper vs Claudia Lopez and Fabio Wardley vs Dennis Lewandowski.
Harper was involved in an all British “super fight” against Nina Bradley earlier in the year – what should have been a watershed moment for women’s boxing in the country – and is leading the charge despite being just 22 years of age. She’ll look to defend her WBC International title but, my word, does she have a sensational future ahead of her.
Wardley is one of those heavyweights going under the radar and, for a guy announced in fight wek, his opponent is no slouch. Having been in with Tom Schwarz and Cyril Leonet, albeit losing both, Lewandowski knows his way around the ring but Wardley should have enough to see him off inside the distance.
Don’t go far because boxing is back in Nottingham and, if they’ve any sense, it won’t be leaving anytime soon.